The rapid rise of social networking led to an overall acceptance of the various social platforms as an important persuasive tool for both customers and businesses. Agencies, brokers, and carriers are all discovering how social networking can be an essential tool for communication, engagement, lead generation and relationship building. However, the social space can seem complex and intimidating, and without a specific strategy, social media can become ineffective for your agency.
To diminish this intimidating barrier, let’s define social networking in its simplest terms. Social networking is a virtual space where people gather to share ideas, engage in conversation, and learn about others. Depending on what a person is interested in influences which social platform they choose to use. Compare social networking to a real-world industry conference. Agents and agencies go to a conference to engage with their peers and learn about upcoming trends in the industry, but when they get there, they are going to go the specific locations that have the information and people they are seeking. For agencies, creating a strategic social networking plan is about finding where the people you want to speak to are going, and what they are looking for when they get there.
Create Meaningful Relationships
It’s incredibly important for both agents and agencies to build trusting relationships in order to have a high client retention rate. During the era of mass marketing with tactics like cold calling and large scale email blasts, agencies were able to reach a lot of people but they weren’t able to stand out and build trustworthy relationships. Customers began to shift away from these types of promotions and gravitate towards spaces where communication flowed between customer and business. The need to build meaningful relationships and engage in dialogue is promising news for insurance agencies. Customers are doing business with agencies they can trust, and if agencies are able to engage with customers on a regular basis they feel connected and therefore trust their agency, which also increases customer retention. Additional reading on consumer behavior in social networks can be found in this Nielson study.
Developing a Strategy
It seems that there are an infinite number of social networks available, and more and more keep appearing with some unique feature. When creating a strategy, don’t try and have a presence on every single network. Instead, pick the networks where your agency will have the most influence and execute your strategy to have the largest impact. Each network is different and has its own unique value. Listed below are a few key aspects of the top social platforms with tips on how to use them:
- Facebook – The majority of customers and prospective clients are already using Facebook, and this is the platform that yields the largest audience with 400 million active users. Facebook has become so entrenched in everyday life, that agencies without Facebook pages could immediately be discredited by potential customers. The Facebook demographic has been shifting over the years, and now the largest user base is 35-50 years old, while the fastest growing demographic is the over 55 group. Once a page is created, it is easy to maintain as long as messages are promptly responded to and any user who is engaging with the page is responded to. When looking at how much to post, at least two times a week is the average, so try not to go below that number.
- LinkedIn – While Facebook has the largest reach of the social networks, LinkedIn has the potential to be the most impactful for insurance agencies. This social platform is for business professionals, and allows each agency and agent to showcase themselves as leaders in the industry and engage with potential and current customers through professional groups. As an agency, it’s important to make sure each of your agents are keeping their profiles up-to-date and participating in groups that can spread brand awareness. Agencies themselves cannot join groups, so when developing a group participation strategy remember the posts have to come from individual profiles.
- Twitter – Twitter is the best platform to share news and engage with customers on a daily basis. Agencies can create polls to generate feedback, share industry news and answer customer questions. Twitter is the platform that needs the most posting, and if people are talking to you, a response is necessary. Try and tweet at least once a day and always monitor traffic to your page.
- Blogs – Most businesses do not consider blogging to be a part of social networking, but it can be a top traffic-driver to an agency’s website, and generate the most leads for the business. Blogs add credibility to the agency and move the agency into a thought leadership position among potential competitors. When determining blog topics, try and mix up the content and do not solely write promotional pieces. Industry trends, changes in the industry, and general topics of interest drive traffic to the site from potential customers who are looking for a specific piece of information and end up discovering your agency along the way. Blogs can also be used to explain products/services and discuss agency events, but do not post these one after the other.
- Instagram and Google+ – While these platforms all have large user bases, they do not necessarily influence the insurance industry in an effective way. Google+ is a text-heavy platform, meaning the majority of posts need to have more than just one sentence. Most agencies end up with a Google+ profile because they are using some other Google service, and if this is the case, then make sure the profile is branded to match other platforms and check-in to see if there is any activity on your profile regularly. Pictures and videos are effective ways to deliver messages about an agency as well, but they can be time consuming. If you have an Instagram, share images of your agency at conventions or engaging in the community. But like Google+, this is not necessary to create an effective agency social strategy.
Managing Social Networks
When creating posts for each network, keep in mind that the more promotional the post is, the less likely people are to engage with your agency on a regular basis. Share articles that are industry relevant, discuss current trends and speak to issues that are trending in the social sphere. Promotional content can be shared if it’s mixed in with non-promotional, but make sure your networks aren’t only discussing a product or event.
Social network management is the second piece to an effective strategy. Think of each social network as an additional phone or computer; it is simply another way your customers can reach you and engage with your business. Assign someone to manage these networks and set apart a set amount of time per day to check-in on each network, making sure posts are appearing accurately and conversing with customers who are speaking to the agency.
Remember, social networking is a powerful way to create lasting relationships and increase customer retention. Questions about social strategy implementation? Contact us today.